* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Lebanon is struggling to provide healthcare to refugees and locals as well
Cologne/Miami. One out of every four people living in Lebanon today is a Syrian refugee, leading to increased tensions in the country, Malteser International, the humanitarian relief agency of the Order of Malta, warns ahead of World Refugee Day.
The agency is helping relieve tensions by lessening the burden on local health infrastructure, launching a new mobile clinic in one of the country’s poorest regions which will treat refugees and local residents alike. As of late May, nearly 1.1 million Syrian refugees have been registered or await registration in Lebanon, which has a total population of 4.1 million, UNHCR reports.
“More and more, the region’s hospitals and health centers have struggled with lack of funds to treat patients – both refugees and locals,” says Malteser International’s Lebanon program coordinator Conrad Hoyos. “Because their resources are limited, health care providers often restrict treatments to emergency cases only and are not able to provide adequate care for patients with chronic diseases.”
In Wadi Khaled, a remote valley in the northeastern Akkar region near the Syrian border, the local population of about 30,000 people is host to an even larger number of refugees. “Even under normal times, living conditions there are challenging, with poor infrastructure and few job opportunities,” Hoyos says. “The region’s financial and human resources are more than overstretched,” he adds. “In the absence of public transport, sick refugees can only reach the nearest health center with great difficulty.” The next hospital is located in Kobayat, a nearly 20-mile drive over mountain roads.
Malteser International has delivered a specialized and equipped Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) to the primary healthcare center of Wadi Khaled. The MMU is equipped with examination devices such as electrocardiograph and ultrasound. The team is composed of two general physicians, two nurses, a social worker and driver. Together with another, already operational mobile unit, villages in the area can be visited once a week. All services and medication are offered free of charge. If more intensive care is needed, the patients are brought to the nearest hospital.
The agency is also concerned about the current humanitarian situation in Iraq, where attacks by the terrorist group ISIS have led to massive flows of refugees within the country. More than 500,000 people have fled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Malteser International has supported health projects through local partners near Mosul in the past, and is currently assessing the needs on the ground for subsequent relief efforts.
Malteser International has been working in Lebanon in cooperation with the Lebanese Association of the Order of Malta since 2012. It has also run several projects providing emergency relief in Syria and Turkey. In 2013 alone, its aid reached at least 185,000 people.
About Malteser International:
Malteser International is the humanitarian relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta. With over 100 projects annually in some 25 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas, Malteser International has been standing by those affected by poverty, disease, conflict and disaster, helping them lead a healthy life with dignity – without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles build the foundation of its work. For more information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int
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